Maramureş County - Visiting Sighetu Marmației, Romania: April 27, 2018
Today, although interesting, was a sobering day. Diana took us to Sighetu Marmației a city very near the border with Ukraine. Sighetu is a small city with modern grocery stores, shops and restaurants. It is also the location of the Memorial House of Elie Wiesel, the Jewish Cemetery, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Memorial of Victims of Communism. We began by touring Elie Wiesel's childhood home.
Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) was born in Sighetu Marmației and lived in this home in the Sighetu's Jewish Quarter until he was 15 years old. In April 1944 Wiesel along with his entire family and the entire Jewish population of 14,000 were rounded up and confined in the newly established ghetto until they were all deported to Auschwitz May 17-21, 1944. Upon arrival in Buchenwald-Auschwitz, Wiesel's mother and baby sister were gassed. Wiesel's father died 3 months prior to liberation of Auschwitz. Wiesel and two older sisters survived.
In 2002, Wiesel, writer of more than 40 books including "Night", journalist, professor, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and many other honors, opened the doors of the memorial house and museum.
|Ginger, the comfort cat, at the Elie Wiesel Memorial House Museum|
There is a memorial stone under which is a bar of soap made from crematorium ashes at Auschwitz.
|The morgue at the Jewish Cemetery|
During the first decade of the communist regime, political prisoners were illegally detained in this building. The former prison, now a museum, pays tribute to the victims of communism.
The prison in Sighetu was built in 1897 as an ordinary prison. In 1948, a group of students and peasants from Maramureş were imprisoned followed in 1950 with the imprisonment of dignitaries (former ministers, academics, economists, military officers, historians, journalists, politicians) and bishops, and Greek-Catholic and Roman Catholic priests. Through imprisonment and torture, the communist government planned to wipe out resistors and anyone with influence. Many of the prisoners were over 60 years of age at the time of imprisonment. Some were "convicted" and sentenced to harsh punishments while many were held without trial. It became a place of extermination for the country's elite. Cells were unheated, prisoners were barely fed.
In 1955, following the Geneva Convention and the admission of communist Romania to the UN, some pardons were granted. Some prisoners were set free and some transferred to other prisons or secretly transferred psychiatric hospitals. In 1977 the prison was closed.
|"The Convoy of Martyrs" by Aurel Vlad|
The powerful "The convoy of martyrs" consists of 18 human figures confronted with a wall and no escape. Their guide points the way that leads to the wall but he has already lost his head. This sculpture is in an internal courtyard in the museum.
The museum traces the rise of communism and life in Communist Romania. In one room there is a collection of kitschy paintings mythologizing President Nicolae Ceauşescu. The December 1989 revolution put an end to communism in Romania. President Ceauşescu and his wife were both put in front of a firing squad on December 25, 1989.